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Republican lawmakers appeal election law lawsuit

Steve Carmody
Michigan Public

A group of Republican state lawmakers is appealing the dismissal of a federal lawsuit to undo some of Michigan’s voter-approved constitutional amendments.

The amendments, passed as Proposal 3 of 2018 and Proposal 2 of 2022, aimed to expand ballot access. They did so through changes like allowing for no-excuse absentee voting and creating an early voting period.

Representative Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers) said the U.S. Constitution reserves the rights to change election laws for state Legislatures, meaning the ballot measures should be invalidated.

“We are duty-bound as legislators to look at, investigate, and thoroughly review with a deeper level of what those changes to election law entails,” Carra said.

Carra is among 11 state lawmakers, all Republicans, who challenged the ballot measures last year in a federal lawsuit.

“The acts are an unconstitutional usurpation of state legislator’s rights to participate in law-making decisions under the Elections Clause, U.S. Const., Art. 1, Sec. 4, Cl. 1,” the complaint read.

Carra argued the lawsuit wasn’t going after the ballot measure process entirely, but limited specifically to election-related changes.

Supporters of the ballot measures, however, are panning the lawsuit.

Micheal Davis Jr. is executive director of the group that led the effort to pass the ballot measures, Promote the Vote. He argued the amendments were lawfully passed with popular support.

Davis likened the lawsuit to voter suppression.

“People in Michigan, they care deeply about their democracy. That’s why our commonsense proposals passed with so much support,” he said.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern Division rejected the case in April.

Judge Jane Beckering wrote the lawmakers did not have standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place. Beckering rejected the idea that their status as legislators, taxpayers, and as voters put them in a position to bring the challenge.

“In sum, Plaintiffs have not met their burden at the pleading stage to demonstrate injury-in-fact and have concomitantly failed to demonstrate Article III standing,” Beckering wrote.

In their appeal to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs hope for a different outcome.

“If we as individual legislators don’t have authority in this circumstance to bring forward a lawsuit then who does?” Carra said.

It’s a question the appellate court could answer, if it agrees to take up the case.